The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, June 12, 2019

What Gottlieb hire means for the pipeline — Must-click basketball links — Amanda Zahui B. interview

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What Gottlieb hire means for the pipeline

The news came down Wednesday afternoon that Lindsay Gottlieb, formerly the head coach at University of California, had been hired as an assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“It’s a continuing trend of hiring women,” Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said, standing at midcourt Wednesday in Westchester ahead of a Lynx-Liberty matchup. “Men are finally getting it that women can be in any arena.”

Reeve is right, of course, and it matters not just that Gottlieb is a woman, but where she’s coming from. There’s an emerging WNBA pipeline, of course, born of proximity and an increasing level of professional courtesy applied to the long-held views of both the NBA and WNBA players alike.

But a college coach — and no offense to Gottlieb, who has enjoyed significant success at Cal, but not one of the top 5-10 current programs even — reinforces that it doesn’t take some superhuman effort from a figure in women’s basketball to become a targeted hire and valuable member of a men’s staff.

As much as this may read as gallows humor, it is a reason why I thought it was such a big deal that Jenny Boucek got hired by the Dallas Mavericks. Which is to say: things did not end well for Boucek in Seattle, and she was let go midseason. For a man in coaching? Such an ending is merely a springboard to the next gig. For women? It’s typically been hard enough to get hired again in women’s basketball after a setback.

To make the leap to men’s basketball? Well, it represents not a more impressive destination (as Pat Summitt might have put it, why would we think of the Dallas Mavericks as a step up from the Seattle Storm), but rather a clear change in hiring attitudes.

And think in macro terms about what this means. Until recently, women who wanted to coach could aspire to NCAA women’s basketball or the WNBA. Men who wanted to coach could aspire to NCAA men’s or women’s basketball, NBA or the WNBA, even G-League. The numerical difference, not to mention the investment financially (and thus the salaries one could earn) has been staggering.

So every time Lindsay Gottlieb or Swin Cash or Kristi Toliver opens a new pathway, it does more than just prove it to be possible. Again, as Reeve made clear in her blunt way, we all know that it’s possible. It’s when the hiring practices follow what is possible that the industry can truly begin changing.

This Week in Women’s Basketball

The CBC talked to Kia Nurse about the possibility of Toronto adding a WNBA team.

The always-great Kelli Stacy explains why Alyssa Thomas is key to the Connecticut Sun.

Enjoyed this Vicki Friedman look at Ticha Penichiero.

Great sights and sounds piece with Kellie Harper on the road.

Jenn Hatfield captured Becky Sauerbrunn’s basketball — yes, basketball — history.

Lindsay Gibbs helps you feel Shey Peddy’s debut so well here.

Jeff Metcalfe catches up with Jennifer Gillom, back in Phoenix.

I wrote about Riquna Williams, and tracked down police video of her accuser, Alkeria Davis, and two other witnesses to what took place.

Don’t miss Ben Dull’s 12 Things, not now, not ever.

Friend of The IX Hannah Withiam tells me Gina Mizell’s piece on Briann January is must-read, which I will, when I’m finished covering the Liberty-Lynx.

And Jackie Powell really captured what it felt like in the arena when the Liberty finally broke through.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Amanda Zahui B., New York Liberty

I spoke with Amanda during the gauntlet she ran this past week, defending Elena Delle Donne, Liz Cambage and Sylvia Fowles in a five-day span.

Howard Megdal: I want to talk to you about what authority you’ve taken on, gaining the starting five, and how that has allowed your game to exhibit itself.

Amanda Zahui B.: I’m actually a vet now, and I have to take more responsibility, so that’s what I’m focusing on. Whether it’s rebounding, blocking the shots, or just sprinting the floor talking with somebody else. Focusing on the small things, and then everything else will come automatically. I know I can score, you know what I’m saying? It’s going to be a part of my game and now we have people coming off the bench.

Howard Megdal: Are the scouts dictating what you’re going to be doing on a different night? I ask that because there are nights where you’re flashing for three and transition significantly, and tonight you’re guarding Elena Delle Donne in the paint. Obviously, opponents seem to change what you do pretty dramatically.

Amanda Zahui B.: I guess I’m just getting better reading the game, depending on who’s guarding me. Some days my transition shot is going to fall, some days they won’t. It’s important that I play better defense, for example. Just do the small things, it’s not really like, ‘You gotta do this.’ It’s moreso reading the game. I’ve been in this league long enough now to where I have to know how to read it. I have to know when to do it and how to do whatever.

Howard Megdal: It feels like a lot of ways the five position has also come to you, right? Whether it’s the three-point shooting, or that combination with … You know, rim protection is something you’ve excelled at since year one, right? Does it seem that way to you? Specifically, is the Liberty attack in 2019 almost more geared to the type of player that you are?

Amanda Zahui B.: I’m just here as a player, and whatever they need from me that’s what I’m trying to give them on any given night. Obviously my role changed throughout my five years in the league. I’ve had different coaches that want different things… Tanisha harps on me that the team needs me to stay on the floor and actually be that veteran. I’m not necessarily OG, but that I’ve been here long enough. I’ve seen a lot, I’ve been with different superstars, I’ve been with different bench players.

Howard Megdal: You also seem to kinda relish the bigger match up, right?

Amanda Zahui B.: Oh, absolutely. This is what we live for. We live for playing against the best players in the world. This is what every kid dreams of, whether it’s on the men’s or the women’s side. We dream about playing against Liz Cambage and we dream about playing against Lebron, Kevin Durant, and all of them. It’s extra hype and every single game in this league you’re playing with a superstar, a world star. I’m just blessed, I’m very blessed to be here today with some of the people playing the game. That God’s allowed me to potentially match up against Delle Donne and BG, or Syl.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports ThinkProgress
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.